Conan Doyle Solves a New Dreyfus Case
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Conan Doyle Solves a New Dreyfus Case is an article published in The New-York Times on 2 february 1907.
Conan Doyle Solves a New Dreyfus Case
Creator of "Sherlock Holmes" Turns Detective Himself.
THE MYSTERY OF GEO. EDALJI
Injustice of His Conviction and imprisonment Apparently Established — Ali England Stirred Over It.
Special cabin to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
LONDON, Feb. 1. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of that wonderful and world-beloved character, Sherlock Holmes, is walking in the foot-steps of his literary child and practicing the art in which Holmes so, greatly excelled. He is endeavoring to right what he conceives to be a griev-ous wrong. With all the energy and all the skill he can command, and with no other motive than a desire and a determination that justice shall be done the man who, he believes, has suffered and Is suffering punishment for another's crime, he is working day and night to vindicate the character; of George Edalji, a young lawyer of Birmingham, restore to him his good name, and secure for him satisfactory reparation for the great injury done him through the blundering operations of one of his Majesty's criminal courts.
"A Dreyfus Case in Little" is the phrase which inevitably suggests itself to any one who follows the ramifications of this Staffordshire tragedy. The victim of an anonymous but daring I hostility for years, young Edalji was in 1903 convicted of serious crimes and sentenced to seven Years' Penal servitude. At that time the neighborhood of Great Wyrley was in a state of panic over a series of outrages, chiefly the brutal maiming and slaughter of horses and cattle and the circulation of unsigned letters spreading scandal and threats. The police of the district were active against Edalji.
Sir Conan Doyle has summoned the attention of the whole English world to the events of the Great Wyrley countryside, the proceedings of the Quarter Sessions Court which convicted Edalji, and the persistence in support of his sentence of two Home Secretaries and their advisers. As a result of his efforts Sir Conan believes that he will succeed in his aim, and that within a very short time Edalji, who now is living the life of a convicted felon, released from prison on ticket-of-leave, will stand among his fellows a freeman purged of the disgrace that has attached to him since October, 1903.
The method adopted by Sir Conan was of the kind he has made famous in his literary work. He visited the scene of the crimes, ease the accused, studied the contemporary accounts of the trial, and then sat down and wrote for The Daily Telegraph an analysis of the evidence, applying the principles he has made familiar through their employment by Sherlock Holmes. His story of "The Strange Case of George Edalji" reads like a new adventure of Sherlock Holmes; the keenness of its scrutiny of facts, the brilliancy of its deductions, the literary art which builds up in the reader's mind a progressive conviction that the accused man is innocent, make a tale which, were it fiction, would be as breathlessly interesting as any of the author's stories, and which, being an accurate statement of an actual case loudly calling for rectification, is doubly thrilling.
Sir Conan has made a national issue out of an affair in which, until he took it up, the British public had only a languid interest. A month ago there were comparatively few persons who knew enough about the matter to form opinions on the merits of the contention that Edalji was guiltless of the crimes of which he was convicted — that of maiming a horse and that of writing a letter threatening the murder of a Police Sergeant.
To-day it seems to be the general belief of intelligent people In this country that Edalji had nothing whatever to do with those offenses. Dr. Doyle apparently has convinced the British public of Edalji's innocence, and it is believed that the Home Office is rapidly advancing toward the same conclusion.
They told me at the Home Office to-day that recent developments in the Edalji case were being minutely examined and that a decision would be announced as soon as possible. A decision favorable to Edalji is generally expected, but there are some among Edalji's friends, including Henry Labouchere — who three years ago was actively interested, though without success, in the vindication of the convict — who do not share this expectation. Precisely what will be done in case the Home Office is not convinced of Edalji's innocence is not publicly known. Sir Conan simply says that he will appeal to the public for support in such steps as shall be requisite. There is no doubt that he would have abundant popular backing in whatever he should decide to do, for, while the public is waiting patiently and with characteristic British calmness for the vindication of Edalji by the Home Office, nobody doubts that it would become tremendously agitated if the Home Office should fail to decide in Edalji's favor.
Edalji himself is hopeful, though very anxious. "I am innocent," he says, "and I hope Boon to stand before the world with my good name fully restored." He can find no words adequate to express his appreciation of Dr. Doyle's great and disinterested work in his behalf.
I asked Sir Conan Doyle how he came to take an interest in Edalji. His reply was: "I read an account of the case in the paper and was struck by the improbability that Edalji was guilty. I inquired further and was confirmed in my view." Then came the call of duty, and, responding to it, Sir Conan began his fight for Edalji. He says that he will keep on fighting for him until truth and justice shall prevail.
Sir Conan has not discussed the case with the Home Secretary, but in a statement to the public, issued on Wednesday, he says the whole contention in regard to the miscarriage of justice has been placed before the Secretary, and special emphasis has been laid upon the points considered to be of the greatest importance. No attempt, Sir Conan says, will be made to hurry Mr. Gladstone, but it is not intended that the matter shall be suspended indefinitely, and unless in the interval something is heard from the Home Office it is the purpose before the end of next week to make a request for a direct answer.
Sir Conan's latest news from the Home Office came last Monday in a letter from Mr. Gladstone's secretary. It stated that a very careful examination was being made of the Edalji case and that it was not possible at the present stage of the examination to say when it would be completed and a decision rendered.